One of the earliest evidence of prostitution in the country was given by the discovery of a Roman spintria on the banks of the Thames, a small bronze panel depicting a man and a woman engaged in a sexual act. Some researchers have suggested that spintrias are brands of brothels used to access brothels or pay prostitutes.  There is debate about possible reform of prostitution laws in the UK. It focuses on whether new legislation is necessary or desirable and, if so, which of the three main options for change the UK should pursue. Proponents of regulation advocate a system modeled on prostitution in Germany and prostitution in the Netherlands. Proponents of decriminalization argue for an unregulated system similar to that of prostitution in New Zealand and parts of Australia. Proponents of sex buyer laws argue for a system in which it is illegal to pay for sex, as is the case with prostitution in Sweden, prostitution in Norway, and prostitution in Iceland. The latter option is sometimes referred to as the Nordic model of prostitution. Most other towns in medieval England had brothels, and in some places brothels were official and public. As a rule, prostitutes are only allowed to practice their profession on certain roads or in designated areas. Laws have often been passed requiring prostitutes to dress differently from other women considered „respectable“.  Laws varied from city to city, and prostitution in a given location was regulated, de facto, if not de jure, authorized or prohibited. The regulation of prostitution in England lasted until 1546, when fears that brothels would contribute to the spread of syphilis led Henry VIII to issue a royal proclamation.
This banned all brothels in England and ended „tolerance“ for prostitutes described as „dissolute and miserable persons“.  An Ipsos Mori poll conducted in July and August 2008 found that 61% of women and 42% of men considered paying for sex „unacceptable,“ while 65% of women and 40% of men considered the sale of sexual services „unacceptable.“ Youth were the most opposed to prostitution: 64% of teens said paying for sex was „unacceptable“ and 69% believed that selling sex was „unacceptable“; Older people had a more relaxed attitude towards prostitution (men over 55 were most willing to buy sex). Of all those surveyed, 60% would be ashamed to find out that a family member works as a prostitute, while 43% think it should be illegal to pay for sex. However, 58% said it is illegal to pay for sex if „it helps reduce the number of women and children trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation“.     However, these salons, which are essentially brothels, provide a safe place for workers. In 2006, the Labour government raised the possibility of relaxing prostitution laws and allowing small brothels in England and Wales. According to the law, which is still in force, a prostitute can work from an indoor, but if there are two or more prostitutes, the place is considered a brothel and it is a criminal offense. In the past, local police forces oscillated between zero tolerance for prostitution and unofficial red-light districts. Three British ministers, Vernon Coaker, Barbara Follett and Vera Baird, visited the Netherlands to study their approach to sex trafficking and concluded that their policy of legal prostitution was not effective and therefore ruled out the legalization of prostitution in the United Kingdom.
 Plans to allow „mini-brothels“ were abandoned amid fears that such facilities would bring pimps and drug dealers into residential areas. In 2007, House of Commons Leader Harriet Harman suggested addressing the „demand side“ of prostitution by making it illegal to pay for sex.   The Ministers referred to Sweden, where the purchase of sexual services is a criminal offence. While these „erotic“ massage parlors may teeter on the verge of illegality, most are not hotbeds of crime. Infectious disease laws were introduced in the 1860s and adopted the French system of licensed prostitution in an effort to minimize sexually transmitted diseases. Prostitutes were subject to mandatory checks for venereal diseases and imprisoned until they were cured. Young women officially became prostitutes and were trapped in the system for life. After a national crusade led by Josephine Butler, legalized prostitution was stopped in 1886 and Butler became something of a savior for the girls she freed. The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 introduced numerous amendments relating to prostitution, including criminalizing the recruitment of girls for prostitution through drug administration, intimidation or fraud, the suppression of brothels and raising the age of consent for young women from 12 to 16.  The latter provision undermined the supply of young prostitutes, who were the most in demand. The new moral code meant that respectable men did not dare to be caught.     Although there are laws governing sex work, they are not always strictly enforced, with some police reports turning a blind eye to brothels.
 Many brothels in cities such as Manchester, London and Cardiff operate under the guise of „massage parlors“. Prostitutes are regularly victims of crime because of the social and legal status of their profession.